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Israel-Palestine war: Israel considers 'flooding Gaza tunnels' with seawater

US officials informed of Israeli plans to flood network of tunnels as seawater pumps installed north of besieged enclave, says Wall Street Journal report
This handout picture released by the Israeli army on 3 December 2023 shows soldiers manning a position along a beach in the northern Gaza Strip (AFP/Israeli army)
This handout picture released by the Israeli army on 3 December 2023 shows soldiers manning a position along a beach in the northern Gaza Strip (AFP/Israeli army)

Israel is considering a plan to flood a network of tunnels used by Hamas in the Gaza Strip with seawater, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal on Monday, citing a US official. 

In November, Israel reportedly finished assembling at least five large seawater pumps a mile north of al-Shati refugee camp in northern Gaza.

The pumps can draw water from the Mediterranean Sea and move thousands of cubic metres per hour, giving it the ability to flood the tunnel network within weeks, the report stated. 

A US official told the Wall Street Journal that Israel had informed Washington of the plans last month, to which the reaction was "mixed". 

Officials said that Washington weighed up the feasibility of flooding the tunnels, the environmental impact and the military value of disabling the network.

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Flooding the tunnels could adversely impact Gaza's soil and exacerbate the humanitarian crisis faced by Palestinians in the enclave, said analysts cited in the report. 

Israel has not decided whether it will move ahead with the plan. 

A person familiar with the ploy said the weeks'-long process of flooding the tunnels could enable both Hamas fighters and potential Israeli captives to move out of the tunnels. 

Last week, Israeli captives released by Hamas shared testimonies of being held in Gaza. Some of the captives spent the entirety of their time in underground tunnels, while others were in hideouts. 

An Israeli military official did not directly comment on the plans, but told the Wall Street Journal that Israel was "operating to dismantle Hamas’s terror capabilities in various ways, using different military and technological tools". 

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Middle East Eye could not independently verify the details of the report.

More than 15,000 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed by Israeli attacks since the war began nine weeks ago, most of whom are women and children. 

The bombing campaign followed Hamas' attack on southern Israeli communities on 7 October, which killed around 1,200 Israelis.

A one-week temporary truce, which had given the people trapped in the besieged enclave a brief respite, came to an abrupt and deadly end on Friday. Hundreds of Palestinians have since been killed in Gaza.  

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

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